Sunday, 29 June 2014
Distance 18 km
Duration 4 hours 20 minutes
Ascent 251 m, descent 443 m
Map 154 of the TOP 100 lime-green series
The luxury of a hotel breakfast awaited us as we packed up in a leisurely way. Usually, when we stay in hotels, we are so keen to escape the heat of the day that we leave before breakfast, but this year the weather was mild and the prospects for refreshment en route were slim, so we stayed.
Breakfast was served in the room of the diamond wedding, now transformed into a buffet bar. We arrived at ten past eight and already there were a good number of other people in the room – the hotel had indeed been full last night.
I had a glass of orange juice, three cups of café au lait, a croissant and a bread roll heavily loaded with butter and jam, while Keith had two orange juices, two cafés au lait, one croissant and two bread rolls.
We said goodbye to our genial host and wished him a happy holiday.
He said he was going to the Gorges of the Jonte, to which we were able to reply that we had been there on foot. This did not surprise him – he was past being surprised at what we had done, he said with a grin.
After walking out of the town on the road, we left the bitumen and struck off on a faint wheel track that wended its way uphill through oddly dry pastures on which cattle grazed, then through a young olive farm in a field of dead grass.
It was a little patch of France that had the starved look of Australia instead of the usual abundant greenery.
We entered a spindly oak wood and the wheel track became a proper dirt road, with the familiar drystone walling of a traditional main route. Somewhere along the way we passed the unmarked border between the departments of Lot and Corrèze.
On the other side of the wood we came out into fields again and saw the grey-roofed village of Nespouls ahead.
It was in a hollow so we skirted it on the high ground to the east, from where we could admire from above the great fortified church.
We continued to climb, and as we did so we were overtaken by a squall of rain – not heavy, but enough to make us struggle into our capes, and out again after five minutes.
Then it was downhill beside the mighty A20, where we briefly joined the GRP du Causse Correzien, just long enough to negotiate the messy crossing of the D820 at its junction with the autoroute.
From there we took a series of small roads to the village of Farges, a strange, formless place with no discernible centre. Once again we had to put on our capes while everything got a solid sprinkling – this is doubtless why France is so implausibly green.
The track that we wanted to take was fenced off, so we went down the road until we came to a bend, and found that we could get onto the track there.
It turned out to be a delightful downward stroll along the ridge, on a path carpeted with leaves and lined with the mossy remnants of a stone wall. All around were newly washed woods.
Quite suddenly we emerged from this green tunnel onto a grassy hillside, looking down as if from a hot-air balloon on the river Couze and the church of Chasteaux on a knoll beyond.
The track that descended across the face of the slope looked well-worn and we met several people walking up from the river, as well as a pair of black-clad runners who catapulted past us in the downward direction.
When we got to the river we joined the GR46 and followed it along the shores of the artificial lake, then up through a forest to the town of Lissac-sur-Couze.
We had great hopes of a bar here and we did find one, but the accursed thing was closed. Mastering our disappointment with an effort, we set off to get to our destination as quickly as possible, namely along the D158, as the GR went north at this point.
Luckily it was a quiet little road, and after an initial pull up to the ridge, it meandered down through forest and farmland, a traditional route, judging by the stone cross that we passed. An hour later we arrived in the centre of Larche, just next to the bridge over the Vézère.
There was a row of shops sunk in Sunday torpor, and not a soul in sight. We knew that the town had two hotels (and no camping) but the first one we came to, la Terrasse, seemed closed.
So did the second one across the street, the 2G. However, on further investigation we saw that the main entrance of the 2G was at the bottom of an alleyway and that there were people down there.
We hastened to join them. They were standing about in a courtyard next to a pool, dressed in their best and raising glasses of champagne – evidently it was an occasion like the diamond wedding of yesterday.
Inside, long tables were set and waiters were darting about carrying trays of sausages and salad. When we found the woman in charge, she said that we could have a room but that she had no time at the moment, so we should go out to the terrace and have coffee, a suggestion that we were very happy with. We sat under a grove of banana trees beside the pool and felt as if we were in the Pacific.
The lunch guests went in to dine and presently madame appeared to take us to our room. It was upstairs, a big old-fashioned room with glass doors opening onto a balcony and a view of the pool and the banana trees. She said that the restaurant was closed on Sunday evenings, but that she would give us dinner and breakfast, since we were staying the night.
The first thing we did in the room was have lunch. It was not the grandest meal, consisting of yesterday’s stone-hard bread with the last of the cheese from Espalion and a sachet of tomato sauce retrieved from the table in Souillac. The second thing was showers, which were gloriously hot and delicious, but only after several bathfuls of cold water had passed through the pipes.
We slept and read for the remainder of the afternoon. There were many thunderstorms, all noisy and some of them torrential, which doubled our enjoyment of being under a roof.
As evening fell we went out through the big wrought-iron gate and strolled around the streets of the village, looking in vain for a telephone box.
It seemed a pleasant little place, although not at its best on a wet Sunday night.
Back at the 2G, our helpful hostess let us use her telephone to ring the hotel at St-Robert, our destination for the following day. There was only one hotel in the village, imaginatively named the Hotel St-Robert, and as there was no camping there, we wanted to make sure of a room.
We ate our dinner alone in the cavernous dining hall, and were grateful, even though the menu looked suspiciously like left-overs from lunch.
First of all, with our apéritifs we had four little glass bowls of seafood in mayonnaise. The rosé was not chilled, but madame produced ice cubes which we ladled into our glasses.
The entrée was more seafood – prawns and snails – and then we had sausages, very like the ones we had seen being carried in to the lunch tables, and they were excellent.
With them we had roasted tomatoes and creamy mashed potato.
The cheese platter that followed contained goat’s cheese from Rocamadour and a wedge of Roquefort.
To finish we had icecream (vanilla and coffee flavours) and two small hot coffees.
It was raining again when we rose from the table but we had the pleasure of going straight upstairs to bed, instead of having a wet walk back to our tent.